Seaside getaways with family are peak summer, rich with those “everyone loved it” moments that spark nostalgia even while they’re still unfolding. After the school year starts, they’ll tug you back to shoreline bonfires, rhythmic surf, or the piña colada scent of your favorite beach bar.
There’s a prime beach escape for every family, from vacationing young parents to multigenerational bashes where everyone’s invited. Here are our top picks of islands ideal for grandparent getaways sans passport, and seaside manors where family golf rounds end in fireside whisky tastings. In between: Mayan pyramids, sun-washed villages on Spain’s Costa del Sol, and time to play in the sand. Grab your sunblock for these beach breaks that will please the whole gang.
Best for: Families with teens.
There is so much more to do in Playa del Carmen besides lounging on the beach. Playa del Carmen is a low-key, teen-friendly destination with a rep for safety. While you shouldn’t skip those glorious beaches, also plan time to swim in an underground river at Maya-themed adventure park Xcaret, browse Quinta Avenida for handicrafts, and snorkel the limestone-filtered jade pools of Cenote Azul. Playa del Carmen’s central location puts the whole Riviera Maya within exploring distance: Green sea turtles glide through shallows in nearby Akumal, and Tulum’s ancient ruins are an hour away.
Stay: Spanning jungle and pearly sand, the all-inclusive, 539-suite Grand Velas Riviera Maya has a teens-only club complete with gaming consoles, arcade games, and a nonalcoholic bar.
Best for: The classic grandparent-grandkid getaway.
Miles of open beaches invite sandy strolls at Hilton Head Island, praised for its variety and accessibility for grandparents with kids in tow. Off the beach, the surrounding area is very lush, and there are some light walks, eco-adventures, and bike rides everyone can do together. Guided fishing trips in the island’s sheltered lagoons are great for beginning anglers. Streamlining is key when corralling kids, and here there’s little need to drive: Trolleys whisk groups between The Sea Pines Beach Club and Harbour Town, where boats depart for dolphin-watching or pirate-themed adventures.
Stay: Southern elegance presides at The Inn & Club at Harbour Town at The Sea Pines Resort, whose 60 rooms and suites offer unfussy settings designed for relaxation. Snag a lounger by the pool for a kid-friendly, alfresco lunch with views across the links.
Best for: Families with young kids.
Convenience is paramount for families with young children. When in Santa Monica you don’t really have to leave. The Santa Monica Pier is incredible, with roller coasters, slides, arcades, and street performers. Even younger kids can try surfing the beginner-friendly rollers at Santa Monica Beach. It’s also easy access to all those real highlights for families in L.A. Santa Monica is a 30- to 40-minute drive from Hollywood, Disneyland, Universal Studios, and the dino-packed Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.
Stay: Settle into the breezy, beach-cottage-inspired 198-room Shutters on the Beach and discover a new family hobby with private surf lessons or borrow cruisers to explore the 22-mile Marvin Braude Bike Trail.
Best for: A multigenerational trip to remember.
Year-round sun is the Costa del Sol’s signature, but a chic international crowd lends Marbella extra sparkle. Channel Andalusian cool strolling the beachside Paseo Marítimo or linger under blooming orange trees in fifteenth-century Plaza de los Naranjos. You can still find your own private piece of sea on a sailing charter, snorkeling in the Mediterranean with distant views of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. Marbella, too, remains soulfully Spanish. Marbella has lovely outdoor café culture with whitewashed villages, flowers, and cobblestoned streets.
Stay: Spread across a subtropical garden, the 132-room Marbella Club Hotel has two- to four-bedroom bungalows with private pools that give families room to spread out. Genre-topping Kids’ Club activities for 4- to 14-year-olds are designed to impress the savviest young travelers, with next-level fun from flamenco dress-up to chef-guided cooking classes, stand-up-paddleboard lessons, ocean conservation activities, and rescue-donkey caretaking.
Best for: Parents with adult children.
A pilgrimage place for golfers with a knack for good living, this North Sea beach town merges heritage with student energy. St Andrews entwines traditional values, history, and sports all in one small town. Even if you leave the late-night, student-driven bar scene to the kids, she says, its old-world pubs – like the most hallowed golf courses – are a multigenerational affair. Secure tee times at the fifteenth-century Old Course at St Andrews by spring for the subsequent year through Adventures in Golf, or head to equally scenic Kingsbarns for a coast-hugging 18 holes. Afternoons off the links are for pub crawls, browsing tartan boutiques, sipping whisky in Lindores Abbey Distillery, and elegant afternoon tea services at the Old Course Hotel. Or slip off your shoes to stroll West Sands Beach, bracketed by low dunes and an estuary where seals bask on sunny days.
Stay: Tartans adorn the 211 rooms and suites of the Fairmont St Andrews’ 520-acre seaside estate – home to two championship golf courses overlooking the nearby city and St Andrews Bay.